‘…to go forth and witness the Good News…’

The Rev. James Heuser, the New Rochelle-based provincial (or leader) of the Salesians in the eastern half of the U.S., recently commissioned a big group of Salesian Lay Missionaries.

A Mass was celebrated at the Don Bosco Retreat House in Stony Point-Haverstraw. Each volunteer was given a missionary cross. They each pledged “to go forth and witness the Good New of Jesus Christ as we join our lives to those of the poor, especially of poor young people at risk, to walk the journey of faith with them as they grow into good Christians and productive citizens.”

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The Salesians — one of the world’s largest Catholic religious communities — have had a lay missionary program for about 25 years.

The new group will serve in orphanages, schools and medical clinics in Bolivia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, India, the Sudan (a first for the program), and “a country where the religious situation is delicate.”

Most are recent college grads. They come from 13 states.

According to a statement from the Salesians:

At the commissioning Mass Fr. Heuser preached on the readings of the day. Finding words of blessing and of woe in the prophet Nahum, he urged the new missionaries to bear the good news of Jesus Christ, of God’s great love for the young and the poor, of the triumph of good over evil; and to denounce human greed, selfishness, and fear when they encounter these. He told the SLMs that they will know what to announce and what to denounce if they heed the words of Jesus in the day’s gospel: if they take up his cross, follow him, lose their own lives, and open themselves to the Spirit of Jesus.
He reminded them that they are going overseas not as social workers but as disciples of Jesus. They will experience in their missions both blessings and sufferings, which can be redemptive. Like St. Teresa of Avila in Bernini’s sculpture St. Teresa in Ecstasy, which he described, they will know both ecstasy and pain because the experience of God always cuts both ways.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.